Every Leos Carax Film Ranked

Born to a French father and an American mother who has been a film journalist, filmmaker Leos Carax entered the world of filmmaking at the early age of twenty-four years. Now in his sixties, he has an impressive filmography of six films each in the category of short and features films. His films explore the complex as well as subtle notions of relationships where the intricate thread of human behavior, aspirations, and attitudes gets entwined more and more for the viewers to derive their conclusions.

His style is unapologetically transgressive and shares a bond through his controversial display of the crude circumstances of life that is deemed socially unacceptable in cinema. His commitment to cinema displays an auteur’s uncompromising attitude. The narrative design of his films exudes an obstinate cinematic sensibility.

At times Carax’s uncompromising sensibility nearly bankrupted three producers as the film went way over schedule and so he has been a victim of disastrous fate at the box office and prey to horrendous media publicity. But that did not daunt his conviction to make films on his terms. Sharing his longtime collaboration with actor Denis Lavant nearly for every project, he went ahead to churn out one film after the other with poetic lyricism and idiosyncratic aesthetic design that reinvigorated the cinematic form for posterity.

Here are all Leos Carax Films Ranked:

6. Boy Meets Girl (1984)

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Leos Carax’s debut Boy Meets Girl is set in Paris and tells the story of a brief moment of togetherness between a young boy Alex (Denis Lavant) and a young girl Mireille (Mireille Perrier) that eventually ends on a tragic note. Both the protagonists of the film have suffered from an emotionally dissatisfying relationship and that brings them closer and embraces the company of one another. Alex is an aspiring filmmaker and he is depressed because of the breakup with his lover. Whereas, Mireille has also been dumped by her unsentimental boyfriend and that has forced her towards suicidal tendencies.

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The treatment of the film creatively displays Carax’s budding cinematic flair. Through this film, he showcases the cultural flavor of 80’s Paris and assures the foundation of a formidable body of work for the future. The black-and-white cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier brings sincerity, imagination, and flexibility within the narrative. The fluid camera movements, precise compositions, and use of light help to highlight the inner turmoil of the characters. The striking night scenes of the city of Paris significantly contribute to the mood of the film.

Boy Meets Girl premiered at the International Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984 and did not receive favorable reviews from the film critics.

5. Pola X (1999)

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Loosely based on the American Novelist Herman Melville’s Pierre: or, The Ambiguities, Pola X navigates into the mind of a young writer Pierre (Guillaume Depardieu) who has achieved fame and success with his first novel and is finding it difficult to write a next one. During this moment of intellectual crisis, he comes across an uncanny wandering woman, Isabelle (Yekaterina Golubeva), who informs him that both of them is the child of the same father. As the story of the film moves forward Pierre and Isabelle move to an apartment in Paris and soon a relationship develops between them and proceeds towards a drastic ending.

The treatment of the film showcases Carax’s psychological and emotional fervor in handling the bold theme of incest. The expressive and dynamic camera movement along with the exalted shot design underlines the anxious and disruptive state of mind of the unsettled characters. Performance-wise the actors express raw and unvarnished sexual and emotional intensity that seeing it is like a confession of faith. The physical contacts are detailed and illustrate their moral inquiry into their choices, disruption, and sensibility.

Pola X was nominated for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999 and the same year Guillaume Depardieu won the Best Actor Award at Gijón International Film Festival.

4. Mauvais Sang (1986)

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Carax’s sophomore Mauvais Sang aka Bad Blood is set in a futuristic Paris. Two gangsters Marc (Michel Piccoli) and Hans (Hans Meyer), embark on a mission to steal the vaccine for a mysterious virus called STBO, after being blackmailed by an American Woman (Carroll Brooks) The virus has been affecting individuals who make love without any emotional connections. But after the demise of their associate Jean, his son Alex is recruited. But as fate would have it Alex falls in love with Marc’s mistress Anna (Juliette Binoche) giving rise to complications.

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Carax creates a visual and atmospheric setup that goes hand in hand with the narrative structure of the film and brilliantly conjures up a spirited romantic milieu. The style and finesse achieved in the creation of set design synchronize with the futuristic visual style of the film. Cinematographer, Jean-Yves Escoffier, brilliantly creates the salient features of each character with his stylized framing. The effective use of lighting significantly contributes to the poetic mood of the film in a vivid style.

In 1987, Mauvais Sang had a world premiere at Berlin International Film Festival, where Carax won the Alfred Bauer Award and C.I.C.A.E. Award – Honorable Mention.

3. The Lovers on the Bridge (1991)

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In The Lovers on the Bridge, Alex (Denis Lavant) is a performer who is addicted to alcohol and drugs and has to pay the price of his substance dependence when he passes out on the road with his leg getting run over. When he returns to his usual resting spot under the bridge he finds a young woman wearing an eye patch, Michèle (Juliette Binoche), sleeping in his usual spot. She is an artist who is losing her eyesight and has recently suffered heartbreak. And thus begins a story of love and caring between two homeless souls simply misunderstood people left deprived of human affection by society.

Carax navigates the relationship between Alex and Michèle with brute honesty He doesn’t shy away from depicting the brute and extremely uncomfortable moments in their relationship with minute observations. Setting the film around the Pont Neuf and the Seine region of Paris is a further testament to how damaged and lonely these characters really are. As the two lovers dance, quarrel, and dance against a backdrop of fireworks and music the nature of their emotional dependency on one another gets highlighted showcasing the tenderness in their relationship.

The Lovers on the Bridge was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at BAFTA and had won three awards at the European Film Awards.

2. Holy Motor (2012)

The protagonist of Holy Motor, Oscar (Denis Lavant) is a performer who takes several assignments handed down to him by his graceful chauffeur Céline (Edith Scob) received from the ‘agency’. Oscar masterfully dons the hat of an actor and sinks his teeth into the role of an old beggar woman, a caring father, an old man on his deathbed expressing his last gestures to his niece, and a strange individual who kidnaps a supermodel (Eva Mendes) from a photoshoot to a cemetery.

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Carax’s cinematic acumen brings a delicate beauty, originality, and breathtakingly designed scenes that make the viewing experience an exhilarating trip of insanity and melancholy. The cinematography by Yves Cape and Caroline Champetier creates the distinctive and elegant visual ambiance of the film perfectly in sync with the confounding universe of the narrative. Denis Lavant’s outstanding performance couldn’t go without a mention as he hits every note showing his vulnerability, power, humor, and ability to bring balance to the story from light to a heavy tone. His presence draws us into every frame he is in, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

In 2012, Holy Motor won the Award for Youth at the Cannes Film Festival and three awards at the Chicago International Film Festival 2012 amongst others.

1. Annette (2021)

Set in sparkling and media frenzy world of glitz and glamour in Los Angeles, Carax’s first English language film, Annette, explore the lives of two celebrity couple, Henry (Adam Driver), a stand-up comic with a scathing sense of humor, and Ann (Marion Cotillard), a world-renowned songstress. When Ann gives birth to a mysterious child, Annette (Devyn McDowell), who has a captivating voice, the dynamics of their glamorous lives change forever with appalling consequences.

With Annette, Carax has reached the acme of creative liberty and pushed the boundaries of the cinematic envelope beyond the visual extravaganza we have ever witnessed. As a musical, the film is a stunning visionary postmodern display of charisma and style with an audacious command over the storytelling. Exquisitely captured by French cinematographer ​​Caroline Champetier, the scenes accentuate the colorful and upbeat mood of the musical sequences that blurs the space between dreams and reality. It is an intoxicating and alluring piece of work that will compel viewers to marvel at its creatively lavish ingeniousness.

In 2021 at the Cannes Film Festival, Carax received the Award for Best Director. The film has participated in several international film festivals around the world. It is currently available in MUBI.

Leos Carax Films Links: IMDb, Wikipedia
Dipankar Sarkar

Dipankar Sarkar is a freelance writer on various topics related to cinema. His articles have appeared in Scroll, The Hindu, Livemint, The Quint, The Tribune, Chandigarh, Upperstall, and vaguevisages.com amongst others.